When I was a kid I’d visit my family in Montana every summer, and every stint with my grandmother required a mandatory visit to a local nursing home where two of our family members resided. One was my great-grandmother who was fairly mobile and the other was my mother’s cousin Mike, who was in a car accident in his early 20’s. The accident resulted in him being confined to a wheelchair for the rest of his life. He was quadriplegic, which meant he could barely move on his own, couldn’t use the bathroom by himself and had to use a talking computer to communicate with us.
My brother, sister and I were pretty young and I can’t say we ever grew used to these visits because it was hard to see someone who was in the prime of their life, age-wise unable to move and speak. I can’t honestly say that we had much of a relationship with Mike because communication was nearly impossible, but I do believe he understood and enjoyed our visits with him.
I’d think about Mike after we’d leave the nursing home and I’d be overwhelmed with sadness. I’d ask my grandmother how the accident happened sometimes, and even though I’d heard the story several times before, she patiently retold it. Mike was a constant reminder to wear my seat belt while riding in a car and he was a reminder not to speed while driving. Most importantly, he was a reminder of what it’s like to be alive, but unable to really live. It scared the shit out of me.
When my mom was six years old she had her kidney surgically removed. One kidney worked fine and the other was a deformed blob of useless tissue where a functioning kidney should have been. In 1963 when she had the surgery, the medical field lacked the sophisticated tools they use today, which left her with a 12 inch scar from her lower back to just under her rib cage in the front of her body. Whenever we’d whine and cry about a skinned knee, my Mom would pull up the side of her shirt and remind us of what real pain looked like. Needless to say, unless we were covered in blood, we didn’t get much sympathy from her.
My point with both of these stories is that they had a profound impact on me and how I’ve chosen to live my life. If I’d never had to visit Mike in that nursing home, I wouldn’t be the person I am today. I wouldn’t understand what real suffering was because not only did his accident impact him, it drastically took it’s toll on his entire family. If my mother had never gone through the loss of a kidney and been left with such an intimidating scar, she may have coddled all of us and turned us into helpless cry babies, unable to to function on our own. Not to say we don’t have our moments, but she built some strong kids with her no-nonsense parenting.
Where has all this left me? As a coach, I’ve cultivated patience and compassion because I work with a multitude of people from all backgrounds and walks of life. I love the diversity of my interactions with clients and I have a really good time on a daily basis. But what I have a difficult time dealing with is people who make constant excuses about why they “can’t” do something. Why they miss workouts and why they refuse to make themselves a priority.
Much like my Mother’s callous parenting style, I’ve developed an “I don’t give a shit” mentality when it comes to complainers in my life. If you don’t like the way something is going, change it. Ask for help. Stop doing things that derail your progress and do better.
I’ve met many people who have a legitimate reason to be sad or angry with the cards life has dealt them, but they refuse to complain. In fact, they smile more than the average person. One thing I can say about Mike, he always cracked jokes and smiled every time we saw him. He never once bitched about being in the wheelchair. Despite his condition, he was very aware of what had happened to him and I never once saw him cry or act like he wanted pity of any kind.
Because of Mike, I have very little tolerance for those who seem to only want attention for their constant barrage of pointless complaints. My job is to produce results for my clients, not pander to their whining and excuse making. I refuse to enable this. In fact, I get physically uncomfortable being around it.
If you’re an excuse maker, quiet down. Internalize your whining and work on finding solutions before you allow those musings to see the light of day. Write them down! Journals are great venting tools, and notebooks don’t lose their patience with you.